We asked Adrienne for a list of her favourite disaster novels, and she out did herself. Here’s her list of ten, plus some extra, genre-defining classics.
1 Life as we knew it, Susan Beth Pfeffer. It’s almost the end of Miranda’s sophomore year in high school, and her journal reflects the busy life of a typical teenager. When Miranda first begins hearing the reports of a meteor on a collision course with the moon, it hardly seems worth a mention in her diary. But after the meteor hits, pushing the moon off its axis and causing worldwide earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, all the things Miranda used to take for granted begin to disappear. Food and gas shortages, along with extreme weather changes, come to her small Pennsylvania town.Her family is forced to make tough choices while they consider their increasingly limited options. The second book in the series is The Dead and the Gone.
2 Little Brother, Cory Doctorow. Not really about the end of the world, but a scary situation anyway. Seventeen-year-old techno-geek “w1n5t0n” (aka Marcus) bypasses the school’s gait-recognition system by placing pebbles in his shoes, chats secretly with friends on his IMParanoid messaging program, and routinely evades school security with his laptop, cell, WifFnder, and ingenuity. While skipping school, Marcus is caught near the site of a terrorist attack on San Francisco and held by the Department of Homeland Security for six days of intensive interrogation. After his release, he vows to use his skills to fight back against an increasingly frightening system of surveillance. Set in the near future, Doctorow’s novel blurs the lines between current and potential technologies, and readers will delight in the details of how Marcus attempts to stage a techno-revolution. You can download this book for free from the authors’ website.
3 H-Bomb Girl, Stephen Baxter. This book is set in Liverpool 1962; a place and time of danger and passion. A thrilling new music is bursting on to the grey streets of the post-war city: a music that electrifies, a music that promises to change everything. But in Cuba, on the other side of the earth, nuclear tensions are at breaking point. The end of the whole world could be just days away. At the heart of it all is fourteen-year-old Laura Mann. She’s on the run, hunted by strange forces fighting over the future of humanity. Laura is the H-Bomb Girl. And Laura is about to discover that her own life is at stake – in ways she could never have imagined. Check out Stephen Baxter’s book Flood. More apocalyptic goodness.
4 Winter of Fire, Sheryl Jordan (NZ author). Elsha is a young girl living in a bleak, cold future where worldwide cloud cover has permanently blocked out the sun. Humans have split into two classes – the Chosen and the Quelled, of which Elsha is the latter. The Quelled are doomed to spend their lives in servitude to the Chosen mining “firestones” – the only means of warmth on the planet. A rebellious girl, Elsha causes trouble for herself – even going so far as being considered for execution – until she is made the unprecedented heir to the Firelord – the leader of the Chosen.
5 Small Minded Giants, Oisin McGann. Beyond the huge domed roof of Ash Harbour, deadly storms and Arctic temperatures have stripped the Earth bare. Sinister bodies reign supreme, and undercover operations are rife. When sixteen-year-old Sol Wheat’s father goes missing and is accused of murder, Sol sets out to find out why, and in doing so uncovers the harsh reality behind the city. Searching through the under-city’s skeletal maze , Sol’s every move is watched by the menacing Clockworkers and the mysterious Dark-Day Fatalists as he tries desperately to find his father. Even more sinister secrets are exposed when it becomes clear that the Machine that keeps the fragile city alive is running out of power…
6 Tomorrow When the War Began (Series), John Marsden. The astonishing adventure begins… Ellie and her friends leave home on a quiet morning, wave goodbye to their parents, and head up into the hills to camp out for a while; seven teenagers filling in time during the school holidays. The world is about to change forever. Their lives will never be the same again. Would you fight? Would you give up everything? Would you sacrifice even life itself?
7 Genesis, Bernard Beckett (NZ Author). In a terrifying and stifling examination environment a young Academy candidate, Anaximander, is put through a gruelling exercise in interpreting the history and origins of her society. Through her answers, we learn that in 2052, New Zealand has been renamed The Republic after a reforming Governor, Plato. It has separated itself from a plague-ridden globe with a gargantuan ring-fence guarded with military outposts. All approaching boats, exploratory air craft or refugees are shot on sight. Society is strictly divided and individuals deviate from their assigned roles at their peril.
8 The City of Ember, Jeanne Du Prau. It is always night in the city of Ember. But there is no moon, no stars. The only light during the regular twelve hours of “day” comes from floodlamps that cast a yellowish glow over the streets of the city. Beyond are the pitch-black Unknown Regions, which no one has ever explored because an understanding of fire and electricity has been lost, and with it the idea of a Moveable Light. Among the many other things the people of Ember have forgotten is their past and a direction for their future. For 250 years they have lived pleasantly, because there has been plenty of everything in the vast storerooms. But now there are more and more empty shelves–and more and more times when the lights flicker and go out, leaving them in terrifying blackness for long minutes. What will happen when the generator finally fails?
Twelve-year-old Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet seem to be the only people who are worried. They have just been assigned their life jobs–Lina as a messenger, which leads her to knowledge of some unsettling secrets, and Doon as a Pipeworker, repairing the plumbing in the tunnels under the city where a river roars through the darkness. But when Lina finds a very old paper with enigmatic “Instructions for Egress,” they use the advantages of their jobs to begin to puzzle out the frightening and dangerous way out of their city of darkness.
9 The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness. Chased by a madman preacher and possibly the rest of his townsfolk as well, young Todd Hewitt flees his settlement on a planet where war with the natives has killed all the women and infected the men with a germ that broadcasts their thoughts aloud for all to hear. The first of many secrets is revealed when Todd discovers an unsettling hole in the Noise, and quickly realizes that he lives in a much different world than the one he thought he did. Book one in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Grab book two – The Ask and the Answer.
10 The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins. This is the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy. It introduces sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world where a powerful government called the Capitol has risen up after several devastating disasters. In the book, the Hunger Games are an annual televised event where the ruthless Capitol randomly selects one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts, who are then pitted against each other in a game of survival and forced to kill until only one remains.
You won’t be able to put this book down; it has been one of the most popular teen novels of 2009. Watch out for the movie coming soon…
Some classics (after the jump)
The Chrysalids, John Wyndham. The Chyrsalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God’s creation. Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not really human) are also condemned to destruction—unless they succeed in fleeing to the Fringes, that Wild Country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work. David grows up ringed by admonitions: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.
At first he does not question. Then, however, he realizes that the he too is out of the ordinary, in possession of a power that could doom him to death or introduce him to a new, hitherto unimagined world of freedom.
On the Beach, Nevil Shute. This book was published in 1957, but is scarily realistic and has been made into a movie. The story is set in what was then the near future (1963, approximately a year following World War III). The conflict has devastated the northern hemisphere, polluting the atmosphere with nuclear fallout and killing all animal life. While the nuclear bombs were confined to the northern hemisphere, global air currents are slowly carrying the fallout to the southern hemisphere. The only parts of the planet still habitable are Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and the southern parts of South America, although all of these areas are slowly succumbing to radiation poisoning as the fallout continues to circulate southwards.
From Australia, survivors detect a mysterious and incomprehensible Morse code radio signal originating from the USA. With hope that some life has remained in the contaminated regions, one of the last American nuclear submarines, the USS Scorpion, is ordered to sail north from Melbourne to try to contact whoever is sending the signal.
Children of the Dust, Louise Lawrence. This story details a family history across three generations during the aftermath of a nuclear war and the horror it entails. The story covers in detail the three characters who, through their actions, are the last hope of their race. While published in the 80s it remains relevant and thought-provoking today.
I am Legend, Richard Metheson. This book is said to be a key influence in the emergence of the zombie/vampire genre, in fact it has been called ‘the first modern vampire novel’. It has been made into a movie 3 times – The Last Man on Earth in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971, and I am Legend in 2007.
The novel’s main character is Robert Neville, apparently the sole survivor of a viral pandemic the symptoms of which resemble vampirism. The author details Neville’s daily life in Los Angeles, as he attempts to comprehend, research, and possibly cure the disease that killed mankind, and to which he is immune.
Every day Neville prepares for nightly sieges from a vampire horde. Neville spends the daylight hours repairing his house: boarding windows, hanging garlic garlands, disposing of vampire corpses and gathering supplies.
One day Neville comes across the seemingly uninfected woman, Ruth, abroad in the daylight and captures her. But is she all that she appears to be…?
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Phillip K Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? takes place in 1992 (2021 in later editions), years after the radioactive fallout of World War Terminus destroyed most of Earth. The U.N. encourage emigration to off-world colonies, in hope of preserving the human race from the terminal effects of the fallout. One emigration incentive is giving each emigrant an “andy” — a servant android.
The novel follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter in the future San Francisco, through one day of his life as he tracks down renegade androids who have assumed human identities. As the androids become increasingly more intelligent and less discernable from humans, some decide to rise against their masters and attempt to live as humans.
Sound familiar? This is the book that inspired the class movie Blade Runner which stars Harrison Ford.